Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Party of Two


As most of you know, I was determined to get through Christmas this year (the first one after the sudden departure of my husband, and the first one my son had to miss) mostly by ignoring the holiday. I didn't unpack the tree, nor the ornaments. I made plans to go to my sister's house in another state for the actual day. I avoided heavily decorated streets. I shunned Christmas music whenever possible. I thought I had done a pretty good job of protecting myself from any onslaught of excess emotion brought on by my first Christmas alone.

So, when a retirement party for one of my colleagues came around, I thought it would pretty much be just a department meeting on steroids. No problem. I dressed up appropriately and went to the house of another colleague, ready to have a pleasant time. It didn't even cross my mind that I would have any trouble.

I was wrong. Christmas decorations were all over. Pictures of a happy, intact family lined the walls. My colleagues brought their significant others. The rooms of the house were alive with laughter and conversation. Rich foods flowed out of the kitchen. Everyone was kind and considerate, giving me hugs and smiles from across the room. This kindness and compassion nearly put me under, because, as pure as it may have been, I saw it tinged in pity. I looked at the Christmas tree, covered with hundreds of busy ornaments, mirroring my own cluttered emotions. I was overwhelmed, but I held it together fairly well, even when my beloved retiring colleague sat next to his long-time wife and thanked her for all her support.

Then, I gathered my things, smiled and laughed as I walked out the door, thanking my hosts and exclaiming about what a good time I had. I walked to my car.

Then, I lost it completely. Yes. A complete meltdown. I had not cried like that for months. Emotions rushed over me, swept me away and I as suddenly just as sad and confused as the day HOB left me.

So much for progress.

I had planned on going to a friend's birthday party the next day. I went home, and quickly sent my apologies. No more parties for me.

The next day, a friend I had not seen in years came over for lunch out and a walk afterwards. What I had expected to be a short walk and talk, turned into a long walk, a long talk. We meandered the streets of the town, and the talk flowed freely. Walking in the warm air of a California December, I felt a peacefulness I had not felt for a long time. It was getting near dark and we must have already walked at least five miles, but I suddenly knew what I wanted to do. For some reason, I felt safe to do it.

I, the girl who was avoiding Christmas at all costs, guided my friend toward the street in our town that is known as Candy Cane Lane. The houses there go all out, decorate to the hilt, Christmas music blares from some of the front yards. The street is always full of people in a holiday mood, out for fun. We walked side by side down the street and I wasn't overwhelmed, or melancholy, or aching. I was just simply happy. The complications of my life fell away for a few minutes and I strolled down the street with my friend and enjoyed the lights and the sounds.

I thought about big parties and how we flock to them, prepared to have a good time and most of the time we do. But on this night, I understood that there are some times in life when the best party of all is a party of two. It was simple. It was uncomplicated. There was no pretense or need be anything but authentic.

So, yesterday was my birthday. I had a great day until I had to go to two divorce-related meetings. I came out of them upset, confused, and generally distraught. I had planned on getting together with a group of people, but I called one of my best friends and asked her if we could go out to dinner, just the two of us. She urged me to call more people. She insisted she could gather more friends, but I remembered that day in December and how the best parties are sometimes made up of just two good friends.

We dined, we laughed, we talked, I cried (a little) and we welcomed in this new year of my life.

It was just what I wanted.

It as just what I needed.

It was a great birthday party, indeed.




45 comments:

Tabor said...

Betty you should not think your breakdown after the party was a set=back. All this pain builds inside and eventually you have to let it go. You are healing in a most natural manner...if not as fast as you would hope. I also think that the pity you felt was for the pain they sensed you carried and not the fact that you were only one at the party. They just wanted you back, whole again. I think you are figuring this whole thing out much better than I would.

Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

Oh, how I've missed you and your write-from-the-heart posts, sweet Betty! Thanks for sharing today. You're not having set-backs. You're having move-forwards. (((HUGS))) and a Happy Wednesday to you.

Mamma has spoken said...

I've missed you too! I keep thinking of a line from one of my favorite movies: What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
Hang in there, still thinking and praying for you.

Madi and Mom said...

Morning BB!!
Good for you taking CARE of BB!!
A major part of who you were was surgically removed in August. As with most surgeries, you only get one opportunity to heal properly.This is your time.
Each day you must concentrate on the care and tending of your body, mind and soul!! Take baby steps into your future.
Big hugs
C and of course my sidekick Madi the Diva

Lin said...

Do NOT think of your cry as regressing!! No way, pally! That is good, healthy, and NORMAL. Think of all those days between that cry and the another you had before then. If it was a day--Hooray! If it was a week--Hooray! Hell, if it was an hour--who cares? You are healing and sometimes the boo boo weeps in the healing process.

I'm proud of you. So proud of you. You rock, Betty, you really, really do.

Old Kitty said...

Beautiful BB!!! I am so glad you have such great friends! They are truly a support lifeline! You need them now and one day they'll need you just as much. But this time it's you who must be embraced with all the support and love and care from your family and friends! Big hugs!! x

Anne Gallagher said...

I'm very proud of you. You're gaining your own way in the world. And hey, breaking down is our soul's way of dealing with the healing process. There's no shame in that.

Keep on keeping on, one day at a time. You're doing fine.

Flartus said...

Hi Betty. So good to hear from you. I'm glad you found an evening of happiness this Christmas season. And I wish for a quick end to the divorce-related meetings, so you can spend more time looking forward.

And, as always, I'm a bit jealous at how many good friends you seem to have. You know, I remember in my 20s hearing that our generation was creating our own "families" from our group of friends. It kept me sane for at least a decade. :)

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I'm so glad you had a happy birthday Betty. May this be a year of increased strength and faith.

Do stop beating yourself up regarding "progress," ok? It will be one step forward, 26 or so back, but then you'll move forward again. Letting the tears flow is great progress.

Lots of love to you,
xoRobyn

Leah J. Utas said...

Good for you for finding what speaks to you and getting it.

Nancy @ A Rural Journal said...

Life is a process -- never seems to be any quick remedies for the crappy stuff.

Do what you want and need to do -- I've never been much for big parties or crowds. Happy belated Birthday, Betty. :)

Eva Gallant said...

I agree with Tabor. But I'm glad you found a way to relax and enjoy the time that worked for you.

Green Monkey said...

THAT was fantastic Betty! Last night I gave my husband permission to leave and he excepted. I am right behind you and I promise not to step on your heals.

Leanne said...

Hugs. Just hugs. No other words. I'm thinking of you . . . and you are strong. Hugs.

Talli Roland said...

BEETTTYYYYY!

Happy birthday!

And welcome back!

I checked in on you a few times during the holidays, hoping you'd post and that you were okay. I was thrilled to come by today and see a new post!

Sometimes the best thing is to let it all out... I've found it helpful, anyway. It's like cleansing the soul.

ellen abbott said...

too many people can be so overwhelming when you are dealing with grief. but you are making good progress. the meetings will continue to bring you down or make you angry but they will eventually end. it will all eventually end and it will be just one of many chapters in your life.

Linda said...

You seem to have a wonderful circle of friends, Betty. You are blessed.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm so glad to be able to connect with you here again and a belated happy birthday. I'm sure the holiday was a trial and I'm glad you have so many friends. New year and new life. You go, girl.

Mandy_Fish said...

It sounds like you know what you need and are getting pretty good at asking for it. You sound like one smart (and healthy) cookie to me.

Brian said...

One of these days, instead of writing your blog, you need to go back and read it. You will hopefully realize how wise you are and that you can and will get through this. Love ya Betty!

Sush said...

Wow...you just keep going forward and getting through. What a roll model for us all. It's not the challenges in our lives that matter...it's how we handle them. You are doing fine.
Hugs~

Out on the prairie said...

I enjoyed other peoples decorations this year and only helped others decorate . It is easier for the cleanup.It is like Monopoly, after you pass Go your life starts all over again.

Marg said...

Big hugs to you for sure. We just agree with what everyone said. Bloggers are just so wonderful Hang in there girl. Things will get better. Take care.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's not the crowd - sometimes we just need one friend to listen.

Baby Sister said...

I'm glad you had a good birthday, Betty. I agree with everyone else, just because you cry doesn't mean you're not progressing. You are!! Crying can be healthy and rejuvenating!! I can only imagine how difficult it is to recover from that.

Joanna Jenkins said...

I'm a firm believer that the occasional meltdown is a good thing and necessary to wash away sadness and stress. I'm so sorry you were sad-- the holidays seem to magnify things, but I'm glad you ended with a happy walk down Candy Cane Lane and a joyful birthday!

May the coming year be one filled with many, many happy times and only a few well-deserved meltdown.

xoxoxo jj

jenny_o said...

Ya did good. And, as ever, gleaned an insight that not only helped you but will help others as well. Do you realize what a gift you are giving others by sharing your journey?

Wishing you fewer of the desperate days and more and more of the quietly happy ones.

Ms. A said...

Bless your heart. I really do understand what you are going through. Having the rug pulled out from under you, isn't pleasant and you just can't prepare yourself for it, you can only try to recover from it. You WILL get stronger as time goes on, because you ARE a strong woman, even if you have to keep reminding yourself.

Ami said...

Yes, a gift to everyone because you're sharing your journey. You are amazing.

And grief IS a process, I know you know that, and however you get through it, whatever you need to do, no matter how long it takes... it's personal. No one has YOUR pain and no one can tell you how best to manage it.

When I can walk again for more than 20 feet or so, I'd love to drive down there and take a walk with you. :)

Catherine said...

Sometimes one good friend is all you really need. It sounds like this was the perfect way to spend your birthday. I don't like crowds when it's my birthday. More cake for me. :)

Big hugs Betty!
xo Catherine

Lindy MacDuff said...

Glad it turned out how YOU wanted and needed. I raise my glass to you, dear Betty!

Susan in the Boonies said...

Glad to hear it. We all just need permission to feel how we feel, and know that we'll be loved and supported, don't we?

scrapwordsmom said...

I have been thinking about you, Betty. I can't imagine how hard the holidays were...I seriously thought about you and worried!!!

I need to catch up on your posts and see what's going on.

My heart goes out to you.

Much Love,
Leslie

Ann Best said...

I have to admit, Betty, that I haven't been over here in some time, and didn't know your husband left. I am SO sorry. I know how it feels, having been there myself. It is very difficult especially the first two years. I thought I was doing great, but I really wasn't. And that first holiday was dreadful. It just takes time to work through it. To create new memories. It was so difficult for me to let go of the past. And then there are the children...not easy. My heart goes out to you!! One foot in front of the other. Take care of yourself in every possible way. Take care of your children.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Ann said...

Just because there were some tears does not mean that you haven't made excellent progress in your adjustment to the changes in your life. You've come a long way Betty and you are going strong :)
Glad you had a good birthday

Gigi said...

Oh sweetie...I know the pain is still fresh at times, despite how much progress you've made. And you are so wise to realize that sometimes a crowd isn't what you need - it is that one on one contact with someone who "gets" you.

Lots and lots of hugs. It WILL be completely and totally okay eventually.

Daisy said...

Ah, Betty. You needed those tears and you needed that big cry. It was the release you needed. You had been holding it in too long. Those tears were part of your progress even though they didn't feel like it at the time. You needed to cry those tears so you could put more of that pain behind you. I'm so glad you had the time to visit one on one with a friend. That sounds like it was just what you were needing. Hugs to you.

Lydia Kang said...

The breakdown wasn't a set back. You have to process things as they come and they don't always package themselves into convenient times.

I'm glad you have good (nonvirtual)friends who are there for you.

faye said...

At some point we all have to cry ... you can't keep that in and let it build up...

Glad your birthday was a chance for you to unwind and be how you need to
at this stage.

One day at a time... one little step forward..

SueAnn said...

The crying is good even though it hurt like hell. And I am glad that you had a wonderful celebration with your friend.
Hugging you
SueAnn

Zuzana said...

What a great post. All of us who have lived and loved and who have been hurt will relate volumes to your words. I know I do.
I know the first part of a healing process is to acknowledge the hurt and feel it and let it infuse you. Slowly, it will feel as ocean waves sweeping over you - during the storm they are drowning you, but as the sea calms down, they will became pleasant and purifying.;)
As for you friend/colleague and the retirement party - remember nothing is perfect. When it appears the most perfect, that is when it is the most defect. And life moves always alternately over valleys of pain and pinnacles of happiness -I assure you you are on your way up again.;)
Glad you enjoyed your birthday party - for two.;)
xoxo

Hilary said...

I'm sorry you were hurting but yes, a good tear-ridden meltdown can be very cleansing. You are stronger than you think. Belated Birthday hugs to you.

Ashley King said...

where in california are you? i could always go for a party of two!!!

Shan said...

I think the road is not always straight ahead, but that little trip to the side doesn't mean you haven't also made progress.

Hugs.

Anonymous said...

Incredibly well written. Welcome back.